If someone does a lousy job at work, they deserve to be fired. If someone does the job well but is fired because they have a mental illness, that’s an outrage.
This morning’s tirade brought to you by this comment posted on the LinkedIn NAMI group discussion board:
I lost my job as Director – Communications from a regional Chamber of Commerce after disclosing my 30 years of living and working with bipolar in Dec. 2009.
Now after trying to find another job, I applied for SSDI. I just got rejected with a letter saying,”The medical evidence in your file shows that your condition does cause restriction in your ability to function, however, while your condition prevents you from doing previous jobs, you still have the ability to do unskilled work.”
I was diagnosed with bipolar in 1980, have bouts of depression, social anxiety, migraines, gerd and visable essential tremors in my hands and legs. I cannot stand unsupported for more than a few minutes and the tremors make me not want to leave my home and when I do anxiety worsens them. I can take medication to calm the tremors but those meds also negatively effect my memory, errors, and cognitive abilities.
I know most people get rejected but I am almost 60 and have worked in public marketing communications at managerial levels since 1984. What should I do?
I felt I needed to disclose as the work was socially demanding and my tremors showed.
I felt in disclosing that especially a Chamber of Commerce would be somewhat more understanding. Instead they became hostile and took away my startegic job duties and bumped me down to a typist.
Now, let’s start with some clarifications: If this person’s illness prevented them from doing their job, that does put the employer in a bind. I get that. If her condition has suddenly nosedived and it prevents her from doing what she used to do, that’s a tragedy.
The question I have is this: If someone loses their ability to do their job because of heart disease, a terrible injury or cancer, do they get dropped cold by their employer? Do they get treated in a hostile manner? Not from my experience.
I’ve known many people who developed a disease or got in an accident, and none lost their jobs. Their seat simply stayed empty and, in some cases, temps were brought in to do their work until they either recovered or resigned. They were treated with support.
If this woman did her job admirably for many years and just recently hit a period of intensified mental illness, she should be treated like the cancer or heart patient. To fire her because she’s “gone crazy” is, in my opinion, unacceptable.
It’s as insidious as, say, putting limits on coverage for mental health care.
These stories ratchet up the fear level for those suffering from depression, OCD, bipolar disorder and the like. It proves to the sufferer that mental illness is still viewed as a less-than-legitimate illness, something that’s more a figment of the sufferer’s imagination.
I’m not an expert. I can only base my opinion on personal experience. But I’ve heard enough horror stories from other people to know this crap is for real.
That’s exactly why I started this blog.
I chose to out myself and share my experiences so other sufferers might realize they are not freaks and that they have a legitimate, very easily explained medical problem that’s very treatable. It takes that kind of understanding for someone to get up and get help.
I try not to engage in political debate because this is such a personal issue, though sometimes I have to make a point on current events like I did when Health care Reform passed last year.
I do know this, though: Many good people have died because of mental illness. They were ashamed and afraid to get help because of the stupid notion that they are somehow crazy and either need their ass kicked or be institutionalized. So they try to go it alone and either end up committing suicide because their brains are knocked so far off their axis or they die from other diseases that develop when the depression forces the sufferer into excessive eating, drinking, starvation, drug taking or a combination of these things.
There’s also the ridiculous idea that a person’s workmanship becomes valueless when they’re in a depression. If someone misses work because they have cancer, they are off fighting a brave battle. They are fighting a brave battle, of course. No doubt about it.
But depression? That person is slacking off and no longer performing.
I’ve been able to debunk that idea in my own work circle. It helps that I’ve been blessed to work with exceptional, amazing and enlightened people. At work, I’ve gotten nothing but support. I do my job well, and that’s good enough for them. That’s how it should be.
Luckily for me, I got rid of my fear and anxiety long ago, so I’m going to keep sharing my experiences. It probably won’t force change or tear down the stigma single-handedly.
But if a few more people get just a little more fight in them after reading these diaries, it will have been well worth the risks.
As for what the woman above can do about her situation, the folks in the LinkedIn forum offered some good advice. The best, in my opinion, came from mental health advocate Bonnie Neighbour: